Taiwan authorities ups ante on 'spying': Global Times

08:52, February 10, 2011      

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Last month's detention of a Taiwanese major general over accusations of spying for the mainland is unlikely to stoke tensions amid warming cross- Straits relations, analysts said Wednesday.

Lo Hsien-che, 51, the head of communications and electronic information at Taiwan's army command headquarters, was detained January 27 over charges of releasing top military information to the mainland for nine years, Taiwan's NOW News reported, citing local military personnel, at a press conference Tuesday.

However, the Taiwan Affairs Office of the State Council told the Global Times Wednesday that it was unaware of the case and declined to comment.

Lo is the highest-ranking Taiwanese military official in 50 years to be accused of spying for the mainland, the NOW report said.

Taiwan leader Ma Ying-jeou said Lo would be "punished severely without tolerance" if the charges were true, according to a statement made Tuesday evening by the leader's spokesman, Lo Chih-chiang.

Li Fei, deputy director of the Taiwan Research Center at Xiamen University, told the Global Times Wednesday that the case would not affect warming cross-Straits relations.

"Espionage activities have never ceased, even though cross-Straits tensions have eased over the years. But these cases won't affect the overall prospect of cross-Straits ties," he said, adding that such spy cases "have extended from the previous political, military and security spheres to economic, technology and other social areas."

The comments by Ma indicate that he is adopting a balanced stance to appease groups in Taiwan that are hostile to the Chinese mainland, Li added.

Ma recently asked Taiwanese officials to refrain from referring to the mainland as "China," either verbally or in documents, and some analysts and politicians are hailing the call as a positive step toward strengthening cross-Straits political trust.

Li Wei, director of the Institute of Security and Arms Control Studies with the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations, said cross- Straits spying activities are much less frequent than in areas such as the Korean Peninsula.

"Most cross-Straits communications are open to the public, and the transparency is increasing," he noted. "All this has led espionage activities to decline."

However, the fact is, he said, spying is going to happen everywhere.

"Spying activities have been going on worldwide amid competitiveness," he said. "Commercial spying has been on the rise recently, while military espionage has declined."
According to Taiwanese authorities, Lo was recruited by the mainland while stationed in Thailand between 2002 and 2005.

The secret information leaked involved the Taiwan military's C4ISR (command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance) army communications system, as well as the island's purchase of 30 US-made combat helicopters that are set to be acquired in 2013.

An unidentified Taiwanese military official called the espionage case the "worst in the past half century," adding that it could cause "serious" harm to Taiwan's military, AFP reported.

Kuomintang legislator Wu Yu-sheng called Wednesday to dismiss the "defense minister" and suggested the resumption of operations to crack down on spies, NOW reported.

Wung Ming-hsien, a strategist at Tamkang University in Taiwan, speculated that the case could alter the US' decision to sell F-16 fighter jets, submarines and other weapons to Taiwan.

"The case may give the United States second thoughts while evaluating the arms deals," Wung told AFP, noting that the US government may fear that military secrets could be leaked to the mainland.

"The crackdown on cross-Straits espionage activities depends on the political climate across the Straits and will be tightened when the ties are tense," Li Fei said.

"But it's no good for either side to exaggerate the negative impact of these cases," he added.

According to NOW News, about 19 people in Taiwan have been arrested since 2002 for allegedly leaking secrets to the mainland.

The mainland has also prosecuted military officials for spying for Taiwan.

Wo Weihan, 59, a bio-scientist, and Guo Wanjun, 66, a member of Wo's spy ring who had participated in the design of a strategic missile, were executed in November 2008 for passing State secrets, including about the mainland's missile-guidance systems, to a group linked to intelligence agencies in Taiwan.

They passed the secrets between the mid-1990s and 2005, when they were arrested.

In March 1999, Liu Liankun, a major general in the People's Liberation Army's General Logistics Department, was arrested for spying for Taiwan.

Five months later, Liu was prosecuted, according to Taiwan-based China Times.

Song Shengxia and Zhu Shanshan contributed to this story

Source: Global Times
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